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How does one successfully turn a project around?

Construction plans so often begin to run behind schedule! This costs the main contractor, and all their sub-contractors, money and erodes their original very small (in the UK, at least) profit margin.

A less obvious, but far more personal problem this can cause is to the tradesmen on the job, many of whom will have been on price work. An extra six weeks of work for no extra money may impose real hardship on their household budgets with their kids maybe going hungry!

Now there are many factors which may cause Delay in a Construction plan, but these aren’t going to be aired here. What we are currently interested in is:

how do we turn that project around?

Strangely enough, whatever the cause, the solution will be pretty much the same!

The first requirement sounds a bit obvious, but is often ignored until disaster stares people in the face! It has to be recognised and accepted that the project is running late and that the original Construction plan no longer holds any bearing!

The second recognition which has to be made is that the management just hasn’t been up to the job.

Whats_going_on

To make that worse, the “management” may even be the senior management within the main contractor’s head office! Have they had the necessary oversight of all their concurrent projects? However, the buck has to stop somewhere and that is usually on the site management. They obviously haven’t exercised enough control and might not even realise they are looking at time extensions!

Which leads to the first step towards turning a project around. The existing site management usually has to be replaced by more experienced and competent managers which, of course, pushes up the wages bill!

Turnaround specialists don’t come cheap!

Related to the last sentence, let’s demolish a common misconception: “Acceleration costs money.” Hard experience, rather than accepted attitudes, shows it can actually save quite a lot of money! Maybe more on that another time.

So, walking onto a strange site, not knowing anything about it, not even where his office or the toilets are, what does the turnaround specialist have to do?

The first thing is to admit to all and sundry that he has no idea what he is supposed to be doing!

The next thing is to start to generate some trust towards himself from everyone else on the site. While that is happening, walk round and familiarise himself with everything going on then, of an evening when things have quietened down, sort out the usual chaos reigning with the paperwork!

He may well find out that some of the subbies are still working to copies of drawings that are three issues out of date or that AI’s haven’t been passed on!

Once their feet are properly in the door these guys need to do some construction planning and they have to come up with a comprehensive, accurate Detailed Programme to Completion (DPC). It is an even bet that there hasn’t previously been one done for the project! Even if there was, someone hasn’t been monitoring progress against it properly. In any case, acceleration is now the objective so any previous one is obsolete.

This is where the “generating trust” comes in. This DPC has to be compiled in conjunction with detailed discussions with all the sub-contractors’ site management and even with tradesmen.

Always remember, we build nothing!

All we do is provide the trades with what they need to build things, be that plant, materials or just space to work!

The only thing that is immovable on this DPC is the contractual Completion date! Everything has to be fitted into that time-scale!

Then get out there and hit the road running! Display qualities of approachability and accessibility and the guys will tell their new turnaround manager of any pending hiccups well before they become critical.

That is the other thing the new man has to do; get every single person involved in the project from client’s Project Champion, through Architects and Consultants, Subbies, Tradesmen, down to the site labourers, involved in the new Project Team and all working together!

Material procurement delays? A quick phone call to the Architect or Engineers can change material specifications to something readily available!

Two or more trades wanting to work in the same area at the same time? Get the lads to sort it out between themselves and they will usually find an even quicker way of working!

The most bizarre part of this turning-around of projects is that they can often finish before the original hand-over date! It was to finish 6 weeks late but will now finish 2 weeks early? Everyone on the site will love the man that does it because he is putting more money in their pockets that year. The ones who won’t like him are those who let the project run late in the first place!